Dublin school cancels workshops on homophobic bullying

Group claims it was told Coláiste Eoin move was because ‘both sides’ should be heard

Four workshops aimed at combating homophobic bullying were cancelled on Tuesday morning at a south Dublin secondary school.

The school, Coláiste Eoin in Stillorgan, Co Dublin, has declined to comment but the group due to give the workshops has claimed the school was concerned that "both sides" of the issue should be heard.

Workers from ShoutOut, a voluntary organisation which runs classes on bullying around the country, arrived at the school at 10.30am prepared to run workshops with up to 80 Transition Year students.

"We were booked in for today and were to deliver four workshops to more than 80 students and that booking was made before Christmas," Declan Meehan, schools co-ordinator for ShoutOut, told The Irish Times.

The organisation contacted the school again on Tuesday morning to “check everything was still ok” and was told that it was. “We got an email at 10.30am this morning cancelling the workshop,” Mr Meehan said.

He said the workshop leader, who was out at the school by this time, was told by a member of staff the workshop had been cancelled “because the board of management had decided that both sides of the argument should be given”.

ShoutOut is a national organisation that works with secondary school students to combat transphobic and homophobic bullying.

“We’ve developed a one-hour interactive workshop designed to allow students to talk about sexuality in a mature and open way,” Mr Meehan said. This was the workshop that the organisation has planned to deliver.

According to Mr Meehan, a core part of the ShoutOut programme is directed at “non-LGBT people because its aim is to create an environment of tolerance”. He said the group is not aligned to any political group. “We are not political,” he said.

The group has run workshops in Coláiste Eoin previously, he said. In 2012, and again in 2013, ShoutOut gave similar workshops to pupils. Asked if he had received complaints about the workshops, Mr Meehan said this was “absolutely not” the case and they had a “very positive reaction from students and staff”.

A spokesperson for Coláiste Eoin told The Irish Times that "the Principal, Finín Máirtín, will not be making a comment".

There were unconfirmed reports on Tuesday night on social media (Facebook and Twitter) that a number of students are set to protest on Wednesday over the workshop cancellation.

Anthea McTeirnan

Anthea McTeirnan

Anthea McTeirnan is an Irish Times journalist

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